~~~ Night Has Fallen in the Afternoon ~~~
Chapter 5 -- The Basket has Overturned on the Trickster

As crowds were entering Ezennaya's house, people were also crowding into the house of Ezeonyekwelu Ikepuru, Nonyerem's father.

Many people were comforting him and told him to be patient, that Ezennaya would surely marry another wife for him. [Remember that Ugonwa suffered from loss of babies at birth.] Others were telling him that Ezennaya and his son had done something that could make a person disappear so that no one would ever see him again.

But some tricksters went and told him to take revenge, because the chicken does not look for food in the goat's stomach. [That being an impossibility, they were implying that there was something "fishy" in the situation -- perhaps Obiekwe had done something to Nonyerem on purpose.] Others told him not to carry his son's corpse.

These things bewildered Ikepuru. He then sighed, shrugged his shoulders and said that he would not live to let his eyes see his ears [to endure any more catastrophes]. And he would not be huge like an elephant, yet eating only an ant's portion, because the Agbaja person says that if a tribe is dying out and giving birth only to females, and its residents keep on dying violent deaths, that is what the elders call a dried-up land.

He then entered the house, picked up a rope and tied it inside his loincloth, opened the back door and went out. No one paid attention to where he was going.

While he was going along the road, the people he met beat their chests in grief for him, expressed their condolences, and he thanked them. But his demeanor gave no clue as to his intentions.

Ikepuru then followed the road as far as Umudiani, crossed the Ozowata River, and came out into the Mgbugbo grassland, but he didn't see what he was looking for. He then went to the Ozowata forest and entered it, and climbed a stout tree. His mind was not clear because his heart was too burdened. His body was trembling and shaking.

When he saw that the tree would not hold his weight, he climbed down, looked around, and went to another tree with ripe fruit hanging from it. All the earth of the forest was soft because the leaves of the tree had fallen all around there.

He dragged himself over to it, climbed the tree immediately, tied the rope around a branch of the tree, and tied a noose where he would put in his head.

Now he was confused, he bit his lips and tried to put his head into the rope and then hang from it. Then a loud cry sounded. Ezeonyekwelu looked but couldn't see what was making the noise.

He decided that the spirits were shouting, so he tried again to put his head into the rope, but the cry sounded again.

Ezeonyekwelu looked all around, but saw no one. He then snapped his fingers [to ward off bad luck]. He did not know that a person with swollen stomach had been placed under that tree.

That person's stomach was as large as a big water pot, and his relatives had carried him out into the forest so he could die there and his corpse would be taken by vultures.

When the person with the swollen stomach saw that Ezeonyekwelu was trying to hang himself, and if the rope should snap he would fall on top of him, he shouted, "Look at me alive here, please don't fall on me and kill me."

Also, he saw that if Ezeonyekwelu hung himself and then died, his weight would fall on his body. Again, if the vultures smelled the hanging body and came close, they would start to fight over him and then pierce his stomach.

As Ezeonyekwelu looked around at the base of the tree and saw the person who had been placed on the ground, his stomach shiny with distension, something dawned on him. He then beat his chest and realized that it was through ignorance that he had tried to throw his life away, when people with swollen stomachs were longing to live. His body trembled, his fear left him, and he leaped to the ground and ran without looking back.

The story of what he saw and heard is unbelievable. But the person with the swollen stomach laughed at him and called him crazy, because he quoted the proverb saying that if the day is not going well, a he-goat chases his mother. [Chasing the mother will not help the situation.]

Ezeonyekwelu returned to his house, and sent a message telling Ezennaya to bring him Nonyerem's body. Ezennaya did as he was told. Ezeonyekwelu lifted his face to the sky and cried out that the Lord in heaven had abandoned him. Tears were dripping from his eyes.

Everyone cried out as much as he could, then went and sat down, looking around in the compound. Ezeonyekwelu said that gunpowder should be bought for him at Ejemnu's house. Some people went and collected four bottles of gunpowder, a land gun, and a poker [to set off the firing of the gun]. He told the young men to pound the land gun seventeen times with the poker, so Agumadu Ogbayaka could set them off, because on the day a person mourned for his peer he mourned for himself. But his own problem was that water coming from the head of the stream had gone bad. [Refers to loss of his only child.]

The land gun and poker then were sounding ''tawuum, tawuum, tawuu gbiim-m.''

Nonyerem was ''fat and blood'' [like an immature fetus] -- he had not grown up enough to buckle on a warrior's shield. Those in his group were not yet old enough to have an age-group in the town of Alaoke.

When the sun had reached midday and the shadows were long, the young men went and cut down the things they needed to weave a mat of raffia. When they finished weaving it they placed it beside the house, and sent out six people to go and dig the grave in the place where the Alaoke people buried their dead.

Jideofo then got up, rubbed the sand from his bottom, and called together their friends and family and told them that the time had come for them to go and bury the body, because someone had definitely died. They all agreed, and called Ezeonyekwelu and informed him, and he told them to do what they had to do.

They then brought the raffia mat, shooed away all the women who were sitting by the body, took the body and put it in the raffia mat. Nonyerem's mother, Ugonwa, went and collected waist beads, necklaces, leg rings, Igala beads, finger rings, and ivory beads, and cast them on Nonyerem on the raffia mat, telling him to take them away with him, because night had fallen in the afternoon [disaster had struck] and everything beautiful in her life was gone.

His father, Ezeonyekwelu, beat his chest, cried manly tears, went into the house, brought out some cowries that he had put in a pot and covered its opening with a torn cloth. Everyone sat there watching him.

He lifted the pot and put it on the raffia mat. Some people then tied up the corpse and carried it to the grave they had dug and buried it there.

The story of what happened then is unbelievable. Nonyerem's parents comforted each other and said that a person whom the world had denied does not deny himself. [We must carry on even when life has dealt us a heavy blow.]

That night, Ezeonyekwelu went and cut down a sacred tree which was in the center of his compound, and carried the images and the sacred staff and the ikenga [carved ritual figure] and all the things he used to invoke the deities, and burned them in the fire. After burning them, he went out, saying that if the images and the ikenga had cared about him, they would not have allowed what had happened to him to take place.

~~ *TO CHAPTER 6* ~~


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